It’s one of the smallest tasks in any project, yet it can end up wasting the most time and causing the most frustration. A stuck screw mocks the best carpenters with its stubborn power.
Here’s how you can fight back.
Use good screws in the first place. Cheap screws damage easily. Corrosion resistant screws are good because their slots aren’t easily damaged years down the road. And a square-drive (or Robertson) screw is the easiest to both drive and back off.
But what if the screw went in back when swing was king? It’s stuck and it has a standard single slot.
1. Use a good screwdriver. A damaged head slips easier, damaging the slot.
2. Press down as you turn. If your pressure is too light, you’ll slip.
3. Try driving the screw clockwise slightly, then reversing. This may loosen the screw.
4. An offset or ratchet drive screwdriver gives you more leverage.
5. If the slot is damaged, get some valve grinding compound (used by auto mechanics), and put a bit on the tip of the screwdriver. This helps increase your grip on the damaged slot.
6. If the screw head is not flush or below the surface of the wood, you may want to try gripping the head with pliers. Used sideways, like an offset screwdriver, they can give you more leverage. (This should be your next-to-last resort, as you may just damage the head further.)
7. The last resort. Drill it out using a metal bit, and replace with a larger screw. If possible, use a drill press with your wood clamped in place, as the bit will seek the path of least resistance and slide off the tougher metal.